Despite freezing temperatures, a group including LBCC students took to the sidewalks of downtown Albany to protest the impending repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
On Friday, Congress approved a budget seen as the first step in repealing the Affordable Care Act. While the measure itself does not directly address the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, it does prohibit Democrats in the Senate from filibustering future efforts to repeal.
Several rallies were held throughout Oregon on Sunday in conjunction with the more than 70 rallies held nationwide. The event outside of the Linn County Court House in Albany was organized by Bert Guptill and sponsored by the Our Revolution club and Young Democrats club of LBCC.
Jeff Pierce, vice president of the Our Revolution club said the club supported the rally because, “Health care should be considered a right, it should be available to all citizens in our country.”
According to a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute, an estimated 24 million people would lose their health insurance by 2021 if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. This number would be in addition to the nearly 30 million Americans who are currently uninsured.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), a major figure in the push to repeal the Affordable Care Act, recently held a “town hall meeting” on CNN.
“Obamacare came in with all this fanfare and all this promise. Remember if you like your plan you can keep it? That was proven to be the lie of the year, at the time. Remember it was gonna lower premiums twenty-five hundred dollars? They’ve skyrocketed since then,” Ryan said. He went on to refer to the law as “collapsing.”
Speaker Ryan was unable to offer specific information about a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, because a new plan has yet to be devised. Ryan did say the Republicans intend to replace it as they repeal it.
“Right now the Republicans don’t really have a plan to replace Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act. They seem to be devoted to repealing it for the sake of repealing it. There’s been a lot of talk of ‘repeal and replace,’ but we really haven’t seen any movement on any solid plans,” Pierce said.
Many present at the rally echoed concerns about the Affordable Care Act being repealed at all, particularly before there is a clear plan to replace it.
In addition to regulating how health insurance companies interact with policyholders, or prospective policyholders, the Affordable Care Act also allocates additional federal funding to supplement healthcare costs for people with disabilities and those with Medicare and Medicaid.
Nancy Hammond of Albany stated concerns over the loss of this funding when asked why she chose to participate in the rally.
“In support of my Husband, who is a physician’s assistant, presently working at OSU in student health, but did run a free clinic. When the Affordable Care Act came into being, he was able to find a lot of medical homes for people who, before that, were solely served by a free clinic,” said Hammond.
To some, the rallies were the beginning of a movement to oppose changes the incoming administration intends to make. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) referred to the rallies as “Our First Stand.” The phrase is quickly becoming a slogan of a growing group that wishes to challenge the current Republican agenda.
Several rallies held throughout the country on Sunday were organized and participated in by Democratic and Independent members of Congress. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders attended a rally at Macomb Community College in Warren, Michigan.
“This is the wealthiest country in the world, it is time we got our national priorities right. The United States today, and I hope everyone in America understands it, we are the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all people as a right,” Sanders told a crowd of more than 10,000 people.
The rallies that took place across the country on Sunday were organized in less than two weeks, as Sanders alluded to in his speech.
“The revolution is going on,” said Guptill. “Maybe Trump getting elected is what we needed to get us out of our lethargy and bring in activist people, not just behind the scenes in the Democratic party.”
Sunday’s protests against the current GOP platform are proving not to be an isolated incident. On January 21st, over 350 “Women’s Marches” are planned nationwide, totaling over 400 hundred events in just under a week.
“My rights as a citizen,” said Cynthia De La Torre, bluntly stating her reason for attending the rally in support of the Affordable Care Act.
De La Torre is a student at LBCC and president of the Our Revolution club. She hopes the event will encourage involvement in the political process, bringing out people to the crowd to stand up for their rights.
“To anyone who feels something and has had a reaction to this new administration, know that they’re not alone, and to keep resisting, and to show up,” De La Torre concluded.
The Albany rally maintained a festive atmosphere with attendees enjoying coffee and donuts while spending hours discussing their fears about the incoming administration and ongoing efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Horns were frequently honking as supporters drove by, with the crowd cheering in response.
Guptill said he felt the event was “a heck of a success, ” and that he planned to organize additional rallies outside of the Linn County Court House in the near future.
Story by K. Rambo
Photos by Emily Goodykoontz